Occidental Ruling Misses the Mark
September 15, 2006
by Emily Guidry
The battle continues for former shock-jock Jason Antebi in his case against Occidental College
. The Student Press Law Center reported
Wednesday that a state appeals court found that Antebi lacked standing to sue Occidental under California’s Leonard Law, which shields students at private California colleges from censorship of speech that would be constitutionally protected in society at large.
This ruling reflects an apparent loophole in the Leonard Law, which provides that “any student enrolled” at the institution can sue when the law is violated. Since Antebi had already graduated from Occidental when he filed his suit, the court found the Leonard Law inapplicable even though it stated that Antebi has a legitimate defamation claim against the school.
In the SPLC article, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff commented, “Under the way that the court has interpreted [the law], a university would have free reign to censor a student in the last semester of his senior year almost as much as they’d like to.”
Schools could easily sidestep censorship lawsuits by either expelling a student before he has time to file suit or simply riding out a student’s final semesters, considering themselves “home free” if the student failed to file suit while still actively enrolled in the university.
Considering the fact that former California Senator Bill Leonard, who authored the Leonard Law, disagrees
with the court’s interpretation of the law in Antebi’s case, this seems to be an instance of judicial misinterpretation of legislative intent at its worst.